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GIRL GURU: Madonna King will explain why teenagers are getting older, younger at a community parent forum hosted by PLC Armidale next week. 

"Our girls are older, younger": the complexity of parenting post COVID 

Madonna King to speak at PLC Armidale community parent forum

An award-winning journalist, author and leader of public debate scheduled to speak in Armidale for the first time next week says the parenting role is more complex than ever following COVID -19.

Madonna King will speak at the 2022 Parent Forum hosted by PLC Armidale on Wednesday, August 31, and she says things have changed since 2017, when she last spoke in the region.

“Our girls are older, younger,” Ms King said.
“If you're a parent now and have an 18-year-old and a 10-year-old, you are almost parenting over two generations.”

Ms King is the author of four books focusing on parenting girls, the latest of which ‘L Platers: How to Support Your Teen Daughter on the Road to Adulthood’ was released earlier this year. 
While researching and writing the books, she spoke with thousands of girls, parents, psychologists and education specialists.

The pervasive use of social media, the legacy of COVID and the focus on academic pursuits are all factors Ms King said have made it more complex to parent and to educate than it was only three or four years ago.
While many primary schoolers were gifted smartphones to keep in touch during COVID, smartphone use at a younger age is also generally on the rise, which is not a good thing, the experts say.

“No 10-year-old should be on a smartphone,” Ms King said.
“Kids are seeing and hearing things that they don't necessarily understand, and that's made them older, younger - but their ability to actually deal with those things is not as good.”

Conversely, she says that young adults are less mature at the other end of the spectrum because they missed many formative risk-taking and social experiences during pandemic lockdowns.

“Universities are now seeing girls act more like 15-year-olds in the first year than 18-year-olds,” Ms King said. 

“Just think about what you did between the ages of 15 and 18. The mistakes you made, the opportunities you had, the misjudgments and the calculated risks.  Many of those disappeared for our 15 to 18-year-olds courtesy of COVID. So we've got some 18-year-olds who are 15-year-olds and some 10-year-olds acting like 15-year-olds.”

But while the numbers are significant, not all children are affected, which adds to the problem's complexity, according to Ms King.

“When you and I were ten years old, we would have discussed the same things,” Ms King said.

“Now we have 10-year-olds sitting around the school at lunchtime, and some are talking about build-a-bears, while others are talking about the cute boy on the bus. And that makes it really difficult for educators and parents. Because with that age particularly, there is just such a wide variety of knowledge.”

Ms King will be the keynote speaker at PLC Armidale next week, appearing with local psychologist Dr Mary Kaspar, who has just released her first book, ‘The popular Girls’, which explores the power play in teenage girls’ relationships. The event is open to all community members regardless of where their children go to school. 

Principal of the historic Armidale all-girl institution, Nicola Taylor, said the college had identified the opportunity of bringing together keynote speakers, researchers and leaders in their respective areas to look at some of the emerging and current issues challenging girls and parents of daughters. 

Both guest speakers at the 2022 event have daughters, and both sent them to an all-girls school. 

Ms King said the most significant difference she had noticed during the research for her books was that girls who attended an all-girls school tended to be more focused.

“Every single one of them across Australia had an answer when I asked them what they wanted to do when they left,” Ms King said. 

“They had considered and thought about it, and the school had nurtured that. But about 70 per cent of  the girls attending co-educational schools said they didn’t know and asked me why I was asking them.”

She said that socialising with boys was very important and could be done through family or extracurricular activities.

“We want focused girls who feel more confident,” Ms King said. “My daughters now also go to an all-girls college at university. And I think that absence of competition, just dressing for yourself, having friends with your back, having others like you,  being able to walk down in your pyjamas and step into a shower, they're the things I value about it.” 

 Book here to ATTEND THE 2022 PARENT FORUM

Dr Mary Kaspar 003

Armidale psychologist and author of 'The Popular Girls' Dr Mary Kaspar will join author Madonna King at a parents' forum hosted by PLC Armidale on August 31. 


Armidale psychologist Dr Mary Kaspar to discuss ‘The Popular Girls’ at PLC Armidale

An Armidale-based clinical psychologist has released her first book after identifying a gap in understanding the power play in teenage girls’ relationships.

As well as being a researcher (and now author), Dr Mary Kaspar is a mother to three young adult daughters. She also has five elder sisters.

“Girls are my world,” she said. 

“As part of a doctorate in clinical psychology, I lectured in the clinical psychology master's programme. And in my private practice, I did group programmes for girls. The feedback I was getting from those girls was telling me that there was an area on which we needed some more resources.”

Dr Kapsar said since releasing her book ‘The Popular Girls’ earlier this year, the response has been overwhelmingly positive - particularly from experts in the field in Australia and internationally.   She says more than 200 books on the subject have been referenced in her tome.

 “The topic is gathering a lot of interest,” Dr Kaspar said.  “A couple of sentences in my book cover three or four books I've read. It's dense, covers a lot of literature, and has been received incredibly well.”

 Renowned Australian parenting author and educator Maggie Dent said ‘it ‘may very well be’ the best book she had read about understanding adolescent girl psychology and how it affects behaviour, well-being and friendships in her review of ‘The Popular Girls’.

The period of adolescence ( which continues until the early twenties) is one of the highest risk periods for loneliness, according to Dr Kaspar, even though young adults are surrounded by others through academic and sporting programs.

“My goal is to dismantle harmful status hierarchies and move youth towards connection and well-being,” Dr Kaspar said. “I provide a framework that provides a clear pathway to help girls achieve the courage and openness necessary for real connection and 'likeability', within the classroom and beyond.”

Dr Kaspar deconstructs popularity and its links to girls' well-being. Her book illustrates how most girls crave the type of popularity that will not improve their lives. 

At the end of this month, she will be a guest speaker at a parent forum hosted by  PLC Armidale along with best-selling parenting girls author Madonna King. The event will be held on Wednesday, August 31 and is open to all community members regardless of where their daughters go to school.

PLC Armidale principal Nicola Taylor said the college had identified the opportunity of bringing together keynote speakers, researchers and leaders in their respective areas to look at some of the emerging and current issues challenging girls and parents of daughters. Last year the historic Armidale all-girls institution hosted a similar forum (online due to COVID-19 restrictions) featuring social media safety guru Kirra Pendergast and local police.

“We are focusing on factors that impact on the growth and development of young women in an increasingly technological, disconnected, digital and highly sexualised world.” Mrs Taylor said.

“Many of the strategies Dr Kaspar mentions in her book are evident in our college programs. Things like focusing on connection, signature strengths,  gratitude, self-compassion, developing emotional intelligence and setting goals consistent with those values.”

Dr Kaspar says her research didn’t analyse the impact of a single-sex environment; however, in her opinion, an all-girls environment is ‘really conducive in allowing girls to focus on being the best version of themselves’.

“Why did I only run girls in my group programme?,” she said. “I just wanted the girls together because I think that girls can sometimes change when boys are around. It changes the interaction, and perhaps they're not as confident.”

All three of Dr Kaspar’s daughters went to PLC Armidale, and she said they ‘flourished in an all-girl setting’. And while her book is focused on her research into teenage girls’ behaviour, Dr Kaspar says the same behaviour can be prevalent in boys’ relationships.

“The research shows that boys use covert relational aggression just as much as girls,” Dr Kaspar said. “And some research said boys use it as much as the more overt aggression we associate with them. So my book focuses on girls because they were the examples I was familiar with - not because it does not apply to boys.”


PLC Armidale cattle Team success

Our Cattle Team has returned from EKKA 2022 with some outstanding results  - both for the quality of the stud animals from our Cattle Team managers’ Lagoona Red Poll Stud (which our girls have raised and led) and the effort of the individual girls in our Cattle Team across various disciplines - including parading, leading and judging.


Lily McCosker Stud Beef Young Judges

Lily McCosker placed second in the Stud Beef Young Judges (Juniors) - a category with 80 competitors! 


In the Stud Paraders, Macey Wake placed second in the under 15's heat, and Liberty Cook placed fourth in the 15-18 years’ heat.  Red Poll Senior Cow and Calf third place went to GPS Monte Carlo owned and paraded by Georgia Whibley.

This is a beautiful example of the advantage our dedicated Cattle Team managers, Tim Light and Briony Looker, give to our PLC Armidale students. Their  Lagoona Red Poll Stud won the Red Poll Breeders group, Champion Red Poll Bull and Pair of Red Poll Bulls.The PLC Armidale team beat school teams from Armidale, Guyra and Uralla to win first prize and confirm their spot in the state finals in Newcastle next month.



Students from across the region tackled science and engineering challenges this week when the universities of Newcastle and New England partnered with Rotary for the annual Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC).

The event is part of a nationwide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach program where students experience aspects of the disciplines they would not usually see in the school environment.

On Wednesday, PLC Armidale year 9 and 10 students participated in challenges that included bridge building, making a water turbine, solving electrical grid problems, designing rail networks, and building a Mars Rover at the Armidale Ex-Services Club.
“The day is designed, through fun and practical hands-on activities, to engage and inspire students in the areas of science, technology and engineering,” said Kate Fittler, a science and mathematics teacher at PLC Armidale.
“Students participated in a range of problem-solving activities including design and building projects to other tasks requiring logical solutions.
“Our students thoroughly enjoyed the day and were excited by the possibilities of further studies in STEM. Our PLC Armidale girls took the lead and were placed first in the competition.”
Principal Nicola Taylor said within  PLC Armidale,  it wasn’t a choice of academics versus social, it was the opportunity for both, and engagement in STEM subjects starts from pre-kinder.

“Early learning experiences can build confidence and shape later choices with interest in the STEM subjects developing in the pre-school years, Mrs Taylor said.

“From first experiences to last - our focus is on girls as they play,  grow, learn and lead. Our all-girl context allows the freedom to explore that fosters curiosity and exploration in areas of science and technology.

“Data from the Victorian Department of Education in 2021  revealed that girls attending all-girls schools were 85 per cent more likely to study advanced mathematics than those in co-educational schools, 79 per cent more likely to study chemistry and 47 per cent more likely to study physics.”

Rotary has been a critical part of the Science and Engineering Challenge since its inception. Organisers say the cooperation between Rotary and their communities is the key to ensuring successful events around Australia.


PLC Armidale win STEM challenge